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Athlon 64 Dual-Core Upgrade and NVIDIA's GeForce 7800 GTX 512MB SLI - Page 2 of 9

DUAL-CORE PROCESSOR OVERVIEW

Technological limitations of current processor designs have caused the processor speed growth rate to steadily decline. Sparked by a growing interest to cost-effectively increase the power of personal computers, AMD and Intel launched dual-core desktop processors in 2005.

Multiple processors are often used to increase throughput of large transaction-based systems such as application, database, and web servers. A server being used by hundreds of concurrent users will certainly process a greater number of simultaneous transactions compared to the number of transactions a typical user would generate on a standalone PC. In either case, the primary goal of a multi-processor system is to increase performance by balancing the execution of multiple tasks among the available processor cores.

Athlon 64 Dual-Core Processor Schematic
Click Image for an Interactive Preview

Dual-core processors, such as the AMD Athlon 64 X2, are comprised of a single chip containing two processor cores. Each core is an execution unit capable of running one or more processor threads, which are scheduled for execution by the operating system. A developer can define one or more threads in a program, which may operate independently of one another. If a thread is designed to share a common resource with other threads, the developer must coordinate thread interaction through synchronization.

Athlon 64 Single vs. Dual-Core Processor

The Athlon 64 X2 features two cores per physical processor. Each processor operates at a frequency of 2.4GHz and has a 64KB Level 1 instruction cache, 64KB Level 1 data cache, and 1MB Level 2 cache. The HyperTransport interconnect provides a communication data rate up to 2GT/s (billion transfers per second) between the processor, memory, and input/output devices.

LEVERAGING DUAL-CORE

Maximizing the performance benefits from a dual-core processor requires that software be designed to specifically support multi-threading. Although multi-threaded program development can be a difficult task, it should be considered for programs that can manage multiple simultaneous activities.

Multi-Threaded Program Design

Many of the programs that we use today were not designed with multi-threading capabilities. However, dual-core processors will provide immediate benefits when used with operating systems that support multi-tasking such as Windows XP. Multi-tasking causes excessive overhead as a result of constant thread switching.

For an interesting perspective concerning the challenges of multi-threaded programming, please check out to AnandTech's interview with Tim Sweeny and the Unreal 3 engine.

MULTI-THREADED PERFORMANCE

The following table contains results from the CPU multi-thread test in Futuremark's PCMark05 benchmark. Performance of a single-core Athlon 64 4000+ is compared to the Athlon 64 4800+ X2, with PCMark05 running on one and both processor cores. The set affinity option under task manager can be used to manually assign a process to one or both processors on multi-processor systems running the Professional version of Windows XP.

PCMark05 CPU Multi-Threaded Test

The multi-threaded test results illustrate the benefits that can be realized from a dual-core processor. Keep in mind that PCMark05 is a synthetic benchmark.

VIDEO ENCODING PERFORMANCE

Multi-threaded programs capable of utilizing dual-core processors include video encoding applications. The following benchmark results are based on converting a 450MB gameplay AVI video clip from F.E.A.R. to MPEG-1 format. The video was originally recorded using FRAPS and compressed to a size of 13MB using the freeware encoder TMPGEnc.

TMPGEnc Encoder

The encoding took 67 seconds to complete on one processor (top graph) and 36 seconds when both processors were available.

TMPGEnc Video Compression Results

Next Page: The GeForce 7800 GTX 512MB

Last Updated on January 23, 2006


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